BELIEVE IT OR NOT! (MARK 16:1-14) INTRODUCTION G.K. Chesterton once said: “When men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything!” Tonight will start the first of two sermons on the 16th Chapter of Mark—one of the most poignant and controversial chapter in the New Testament. To some, this may seem like old hat to them. But, if there is a bible lesson that can never be studied enough, it would be the one that tells us to believe and obey. If we are truly Christians, we will seek to serve His will and be obedient to his command. This week, I want us to focus in on the first 14 verses, and next week, we’ll continue on from 14 and through to the end. READ MARK 16:1-14 PRAYER I. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE? This is probably one of the most frustrating chapters we can read in the entire Bible—namely because we are looking at it from this side of the cross. First, these two women are at a loss, trying to figure out what has happened. When the angel told them what was going on, they were terrified! Sure the angel said “Don’t be frightened,” but that was order easier given than followed! They shot off as mentioned in verse 8, and headed for the city. Matthew reports in 28:9-10 that Jesus met up with them on the way to the city. He told them to have the disciples to meet in Galilee, an order He gave them before, but so consumed with sorrow and terror over the loss of their Master they hadn’t yet fulfilled, as seen in verse 10. When the disciples heard that HE was alive, they jumped up and rejoiced, screaming praise for the Lord God Almighty....right? On the contrary, the words used were REFUSED TO BELIEVE IT! The Master had taught, told, and showed the disciples the Messianic evidence in Him. These men told Him that they would be loyal to the end, bring about the start of the new kingdom, and follow Him wherever He needed. They didn’t BELIEVE He was alive! They were going on what they had seen, and not what was presented to them. They were just guys like us—and we don’t have people resurrecting after being dead three days in today’s world, do we? Simply put—They had to see it to believe it! It didn’t stop here though! Two men were walking into the country and he appeared again. Look at Luke 24:13-26, then skip over to 31-34. READ LUKE 24:13-26, 31-34 Because they were having a hard time comprehending this, Christ appeared again! First, Christ was witness by two women and the disciples rejected it. Now, two more people who followed Christ were standing there telling them the exact same thing. And what was the result? They did not believe them either! Aren’t we glad Christ is patient with those of us that are hard-headed!? Jesus then appeared to them, but He was far from happy about their heart conditions. Thomas even said that he actually had to touch Christ’s wounds before he could believe. Just as it is recorded in John 20:29, Jesus asked them, “Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believe!” So we had witness testimony, physical evidence, and the formerly-dead body of the Master was now very much alive and in front of the jury of 11. Did they finally believe? If the book of Acts is any indicator of their belief, then the answer is absolutely! II. BELIEVE IS... I want us to look at the word that is used repeatedly in this section—Believe! The main use of the term “believe” comes from pisteuos, a verb that shows us that belief isn’t just something we say, but something we practice and do! A verb instills action, not inaction. I saw a poster at a store one time that had an incredible statement on it. It had a sailboat, out in the middle of an ocean FILLED with icebergs. Below this picture it read, “A boat in a harbor is safe...but that's not what boats are made for!” I thought “Man, what a testimony to those that feel safe in the ideas of Christendom rather than Christianity! You’re not going to get anywhere sitting at the dock of faith, your boat has to constantly be in motion. By believing, we are acting on what Christ has done through His resurrection, but we have to continue to OBEY Him. Remember I said if Acts was an indicator of what the disciples held true, then they must have believed? I want us to look at a couple of these examples. In Acts 2:36-38, Peter is preaching the first gospel message, and these people are ready to believe. What is their first question after accepting the Lordship of Christ? “Brethren, what shall we do?” The first action belief has in the heart of a sinner is to seek Christ’s Will. And Peter gives the answer His Master did, “Repent, and each of you be baptized for the forgiveness of sin, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In obedience those that sought Christ came to a saving knowledge, the same way that Peter’s proclamation of the gospel showed that he would adhere to the teaching of Jesus. With belief obedience isn’t optional. Look at Acts 16:30-34. Here a Philippian jailer is about to kill himself after he thinks all of the prisoners have escaped. What happens is amazing, although often misinterpreted. Paul, Silas, and the rest of the prisoners are free from their shackles, but still in the cell. They had the chance to flee, but sought to be obedient even to death. This jailer comes in, amazed at what has happened and asked a very familiar question—what must I do to be saved? Paul answers in 31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Wait a minute...is Paul changing the way salvation is imparted by Christ!? Never! Our country is so blessed, that everyone, even those who chose not to believe, have heard the Name of Jesus. Unfortunately, it has started to make us blind to the needs of the individuals in the scriptures. The Philippian Jailer, being of Roman citizenship, worshiped roman gods. Thus, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were a brand new concept to him. He can’t very well believe is something he knows nothing about. I can’t very well quiz someone who has never opened a bible in their life on the plan of salvation can I? No, I have to take time out and show them what the scriptures say. Then, they can make the informed decision they need to. And in verse 33, that is exactly what happened. He (the jailer) took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately (notice the lack of hesitation here) he was baptized, he and his household. Faith comes from hearing the Gospel, hearing leads to belief, and belief ultimately leads to obedience and salvation. III. BELIEVE ISN’T... As Christians, we are confident that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. His appearance to the women, the two travelers on the road, and the disciples confirm it at all points. However, some feel that the assurance that we have in scripture is too confining. They make claims of “faith based on works” without understanding what the term means, and so seek a broader way of understanding the scriptures. This is where you hear the words “faith only,” and “All you have to is believe.” There’s that word again! Believe! My question to those that follow faith only is this: If belief is an action as we have studied that it is in Mark 16, doesn’t that count for work? If you don’t think it is, try telling an atheist about Christ! It’s a little difficult. Then I know there are a number of people who say that works don’t get you in to Heaven, and all you have to do is say the sinner’s prayer. I have said it before and will continue to till my dying day: there is never a single mention of a sinner praying their way to Heaven in the entire New Testament. And in fact, the last time I checked, praying took action. Thus, we have to be solid in our belief and back it up with the teachings of the scriptures, and not allow pride and the doctrine of man to interfere with what they say. Still, there are others that stay “Hey, I want to believe, but I have to see proof!” These modern-day Thomases are looking for faith in modern day “miracles,” such as healers, charismatic acts such as glossalallia, or speaking in tongues, or simply from that little spark of emotion that comes from an entertaining service. Faith and belief isn’t about entertainment. It’s like I said in the morning message, it’s what He wants, not us. We should be second thoughts in the service to our Lord. But those who seek this show and tell form of church are not looking to God, but their own emotions and intellect. They want answers in a physical sense, but remember what Christ said in John 20:29? We need to believe by an examination of the scriptures, and allow Christ to answer our questions rather than signs. V. CONCLUSION I want us to look at one more place in this section, and at the same time, we’re going to get a sneak peek at next week’s sermon. I want each of us to look at Mark 16:16. I want us to really look at that verse closely, because we may be missing something. “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” The word for believe from the same verb as the rest of the chapter, but there is one part that we are often overlooking. We as Christians drive the point home to believe and be baptized, but we are afraid of the next part of the verse! He that disbelieves, he that believeth not, he that does not believe...are just a few of the words that are used in various versions. I have here another word. The word is pronounced “apisteo.” Some of those who study their words might recognize this one. We derive the words apostacy and apostate from it. The basic definition of apisteo is....disobey. There’s no two ways around it, this statement in 16:16 is life or death. Let me put it in modern terms, say I am driving 55 miles per hour down Hwy 55 heading to Lebanon (I’ll pause for a moment to allow you to laugh at the thought of that). But say I am riding down the road and this guy on one of these new supercharged motorcycles blows past me doing 120. First off, he’s breaking the rules, and second and most important of all, he is in danger of losing his life! Moreover, if he doesn’t slow down and take notice of the situation, we doesn’t only risk his life, but the lives of others on the road. There are so many people today seeking the fast and easy way to Christ. Denominations have broken the speed limit and are now endangering the lives of many lost and seeking souls. The truth of the matter is that there is only one way...His Way. Do you want to slow down and allow Him to take control of the wheel? Perhaps you have heard so many different ways that you are confused. Allow me to tell you some of the Words of Christ himself. Christ said that whoever believes in him shall not perish. But it doesn’t stop there. He also said that if you don’t repent, then you will surely die. Christ said that he who confesses me before men, I will confess Him to my Father. We just went over Mark 16:16 when he laid it and said he that believes and is baptized will be saved. Believe, repent, confess Christ, be immersed into His death, burial, and resurrection, and live in the newness of life. Perhaps your walk with Christ has been through some hard times. He’s still the answer. Rededicate yourself to His will and teachings and you will be relieved.